UCLA’s John Savage Explains His System

UCLA Head Coach John SavageBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

LOS ANGELES — UCLA Head Baseball Coach John Savage is one of the best pitching coaches in the business.

In this exclusive interview with Collegiate Baseball, Savage discusses all aspects of pitching within his time-honored system.

Savage has been a pitching coach on the college level for the past 21 years with stops at Nevada, U.C. Irvine, Southern California and now with the Bruins the past nine seasons.

UCLA’s team ERA the last four years has been remarkable.

• 2010 (3.00 ERA).
• 2011 (2.44 ERA).
• 2012 (3.13 ERA).
• 2013 (2.55 ERA).

Never in the history of UCLA baseball has pitching been so good for so long, and that is a direct reflection of Savage who teaches every aspect of pitching to his hurlers, including the vital mental side.

Over his nine years, Savage has produced some of the nation’s top drafted pitchers, including Gerrit Cole (first overall pick in 2011 Draft by the Pirates), Trevor Bauer (third overall pick in 2011 Draft by the Diamondbacks), David Huff (first round supplemental pick in 2006 by the Indians) and Rob Rasmussen (second round pick in 2010 by the Marlins), just to name a few.

Savage led the Bruins to their first national baseball championship at the 2013 College World Series as the Bruins rolled through the NCAA Tournament with a 10-0 record and finished 5-0 at the College World Series.

UCLA ran the table against an imposing gauntlet of ranked teams.

The Bruins started off by beating Cal Poly and San Diego in Regional action along with San Diego St.

Then UCLA competed at No. 4 ranked Cal. St. Fullerton and eliminated the Titans two straight.

At the College World Series, UCLA knocked off No. 1 ranked LSU, No. 5 N.C. State, No. 2 North Carolina and then swept Mississippi State two straight in the Championship Series.

Incredibly, the Bruins’ pitching staff only allowed four runs over five CWS games against these elite teams.

In the 67-year-history of the College World Series, only one national champion has given up fewer runs than UCLA this year as California allowed three in 1957.

The Bruins were the first team in CWS history to allow one run or less in each of the five games they played. 

Traditional Approach
“We are very traditional in the way that we utilize pitchers in games,” said Savage.

“We don’t try to reinvent the position. We have specific roles in our program that we set usually within a month or month and a half of them being on campus. We try to recruit depth and pitchability along with delivery projections and toughness. Those are the main ingredients of what we are looking for.

“Then we establish roles in terms of a Tuesday starter or a Friday, Saturday or Sunday starter. Sometimes that won’t be established until January. Every year is a little different depending on who you have coming back.

“Then we want to establish the seventh inning relief pitcher, setup guy in the eighth inning. And certainly, you must have a closer. Our biggest thing is having our pitchers knowing their roles and having them embrace their roles so they can become the pitching staff we want to become.

“We talk about one baton in two worlds. The baton is the baseball. You hand the baseball off to the starting world. Then it is turned over to the bullpen. We want to have the best starting pitching in the country and want to have the best bullpen in the nation.

“The goal is to connect the entire game as we have our strongest guy for that role on the mound. It takes time to establish those roles. But when you get to that position and get their minds right as they embrace their roles on the staff, we have seen a lot of good things happen.”

For the complete story on John Savage’s amazing pitching system, order the Oct. 4, 2013 issue of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.